'Lou' review: Allison Janney tests her action chops in serviceable, but stagnant kidnapping thriller
Courtesy of Netflix
At 62 years old, Oscar winner Allison Janney has finally gotten her “John Wick” meets “Atomic Blonde” vehicle in the Anna Forester directed and J.J. Abrams produced “Lou.” A breezy kidnapping thriller where, had it been released two decades ago, might have found renewed and/or sustained life as a staple of late night TNT programming. On Netflix, it’ll stand a much tougher hill to climb, likely forgotten within the next week as subscribers tune in and then disgred it almost instantaneously. There is proof to the pudding for these types of one dimensional, simplistic survivalist thrillers and they serve a mild purpose, even if it’s just to allow Janney the opportunity to kick ass and take names. We’ll let it slide.
The “I, Tonya” actor plays the titular character with a checkered past that sees her living a quiet, isolated life on the San Juan Islands in Washington State. When her next door neighbor, Hannah (Jurnee Smollett), asks to help track down her young daughter, Vee (Ridley Asha Bateman) who was kidnapped by her sadistic ex-husband (played by Logan Marshall-Green), Lou goes into full commando mode, complete with an heavy arsenal, and an adorable tracking canine named Jax. “If you slow me down, I will leave you behind” she quips to Hannah as they embark on their journey, which is taking shape just as a major storm is rolling through the Archipelago islands.
“Lou” has no problem sustaining itself and clearly defines the stakes, although writers Maggie Cohn and Jack Stanely don’t envision many lively action sequences. Janney, and Smollet, to their credits, did most of the stunts you’ll see on screen, but it’s not anywhere near the level of “Atomic Blonde” and the “John Wick” films which “Lou” is clearly trying to embody. Again, this is a film that will merely exist on a hub and remain stagnant for about a week until it gets buried in the algorithm. It’s a bummer Netflix doesn’t license their movies to third parties, because if any film could use a boost from repeat plays on cable, “Lou” is loaded with potential.
To be sure, there are decent twists and surprises buried deep within the third act even as it teters on the edge of lunacy. Foerster, who’s biggest project to this point is a singular episode of “Westworld,” does a solid job capturing the tension and close-ups between the core players. Marshall-Green, great in the horrifically underrated “Upgrade,” is having fun playing the misunderstood baddie with a half-baked redemption arc alongside Smollet, herself no stranger to sustained action brawls thanks to “Birds of Prey,” but the hero is Janney who finds the right amount of emotional gravitas to at least steer this cliche action adventure into something of substance. Take it or leave it.
LOU debuts on Netflix Friday, September 23rd.